Posts tagged with "humanity" - Faerye Net 2011-08-22T14:11:48+00:00 Felicity Shoulders Too cozy for comfort 2011-08-22T14:11:48+00:00 2011-08-22T14:14:47+00:00 <p>I&#8217;m listening to a cozy mystery on audiobook. You know the sort of thing I mean: no gore, no guns. Just a puzzle and a well-behaved British sleuth working it out. I wasn&#8217;t too many chapters in before I thought, &#8220;this may just be <em>too</em> cozy for me.&#8221; At first, I thought it was a certain tendency of the author to include too many non-telling details: she turned right on Such Street and walked north to Another Street before proceeding west on Yet Another&#8230;she folded her newspaper under her right arm. But as I closed in on the three-quarter mark in this book, I realized that I had yet to meet an unpleasant character.</p> <p>There&#8217;s conflict: World War I and its aftermath, the struggles of a character transcending her social class&#8230;I&#8217;m not a huge conflict addict myself, I can make do. But when I realize that I&#8217;m reading a book <em>with the breakdown of social class as a theme</em> where no character shows any attachment to the old ways, and the high-class characters show no evidence of reluctance to change, vested interest in a system that privileges them, or snootiness toward a &#8216;social climber&#8217;&#8230;I stop believing.</p> <p>I harp a lot on the Vivid Fictive Dream described by John Gardner in <a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9780679734031'><em>Art of Fiction</em></a>, so maybe you&#8217;re sick of it. But this sort of thing &#8212; a world with no jerks, no snobs, no self-absorbed idiots making trouble for characters &#8212; breaks the reader&#8217;s suspension of disbelief. We&#8217;re used to accepting, even if we feel a few steps removed from them, flawless protagonists (perhaps especially in mysteries) but flawless supporting cast? Flawless extras? An entire Europe, hell, an entire <em>World War</em> with no human flaws? It&#8217;s cloying, and it&#8217;s <em>unbelievable</em>. As Agent Smith says, &#8220;The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from.&#8221;</p> <p>I love escapist literature. I have comfort books where the hero saves the day and all evil is defeated. These are not particularly realistic things, but a good author can make me believe in them &#8212; and one of the ways you convince me to believe in your happily ever after, in spite of everything I know about human nature and the capacity things have to fall apart, is not to lie to me unnecessarily on the way. Gardner tells us that the novel &#8220;imitates the world in all its complexity&#8221;. That means jerks and petty tyrants, even if you&#8217;re not telling a story that needs epic tyrants or sociopaths. The thing about readers is we want you to lie to us, but we want you to tell us a lie we can believe.</p> End Notes 2007-06-27T19:09:01+00:00 2009-10-11T10:03:25+00:00 <p>Once again, I hear people saying that we have reached the end of days. When I hear or read these words, I stare.</p> <p>Do they not know that every two generations feels the grip of armageddon? That the Visigoths, the Vikings, the coming of Genghis Khan were all seen as clear signs of the end? </p><p>When you say to me that you &#8220;know we are in the end times,&#8221; you say nothing about the world. You tell me that you do not care to consider the sweep of human history. You tell me you are trapped in &#8220;the ghetto of the here and now.&#8221;* You have never imagined the fearful Roman potter listening to the sounds of battle, the despair of the monk whose brothers are slaughtered, the boy running to warn the village of the approaching horde. How can you lack the curiosity, the empathy to realize that this despair is the common lot of man? How can you not even have imagined the thoughts of a woman crouched in a bomb shelter, smelling the top of her baby&#8217;s head, hoping not to hear above the radio&#8217;s talk of Cuba the dim reverberations of the world&#8217;s end?</p> <p>*In a craft talk, David Long described the world without reading as &#8220;the ghetto of the here and now.&#8221;</P>